National Flag of South Africa

The South African National Flag

The South African National Flag is Symbol of Unity and Progress.

South Africa was at a major turning point in the early 1990s.

Apartheid was coming to an end, a democratic government was being formed while and Nelson Mandela was about to become the first black president of South Africa.

The country of South Africa needed a new flag to represent its new vision.

A public competition was held for the design of the new South African National flag. Seven thousand designs were received, although several of them were presented – but none were chosen.

With the country’s first democratic elections approaching, former South African State Herald, 74-year-old Fred Brownell was asked to design a new national flag – quickly! He had one week to do it. (Luckily, Brownell had been sketching ideas for years.)

South Africa’s new flag was first hoisted during the elections – on April 27, 1994.

Its first official appearance was at the presidential inauguration on May 10, 1994. It became the official symbol of the new democracy and was adopted into South Africa’s new constitution in 1996.

The design of South Africa’s new flag represented the unification of the diverse nation into one democratic state. The “Y” illustrates the convergence and the path ahead.

At the time, it was the only national flag in the world to contain six colors as part of its design.

While officially there is no symbolism to the colors, some thoughts are that the red/orange, white, and blue come from the British and Dutch colonial flags, and the black, gold, and green are from the colors found in the flags of liberation groups, including Nelson Mandela’s ANC (African National Congress) party.

Other theories include…

  • the black isosceles triangle: the determination of the black race
  • blue: the Atlantic and Indian Oceans or the wide sky overhead; truth, loyalty
  • red: the bloodshed during the wars; bravery; strength
  • green: fertility of the land; love, hope, and joy for the land
  • yellow: the mineral wealth that is below the soil; gold
  • white: the white population; honesty; peace

The South African National flag is to be displayed horizontally with the black triangle to the left and the red band on the top or vertically (rotated 90 degrees and reversed) with the black triangle at the top and the red band to the left. The flag is to be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

It is expected that people stand at attention when it is being hoisted and lowered, with their hats off, and their right hand over their heart in a salute.

The flag should never touch the ground, never be used to drape over things, and never be used to start or finish a competition or a race.

Colour specifications – Textile colours:

Green – CKS 42 c Spectrum green
Black – CKS 401 c Blue black
White – CKS 701 c National flag white
Gold – CKS 724 c Gold yellow
Red – CKS 750 c Chilli red
Blue – CKS 762 c National flag blue